A recap of Yonder Harvest Festival’s third and final day

October 19th, 2014 at 12:46 pm

Railroad Earth. All photos by KEVIN KINDER, NWA Media.

Railroad Earth. All photos by KEVIN KINDER, NWA Media.

This morning (Sunday, Oct. 19), the thousands of campers/music fans at Yonder Mountain String Band’s Harvest Music Festival headed into a world with a little bit more color than the one they exited upon their arrival.

Because I swear the leaves started turning in the four days I was down on the mountain. And that makes sense — it’s fall, and the cold nights we experienced on Mulberry Mountain are the same kind of triggers that send the trees into motion.

My Saturday (Oct. 18) at Harvest Festival was a more relaxed on than Friday’s frantic schedule, where I walked several miles, took more than 600 photographs and saw half a dozen sets.

I worked in the morning, and mostly took the night off, which means I spent most of my afternoon watching music, and subsequently have fewer notes and photos.

But I did get out, and here’s a bit about the acts I caught:

Paper Bird, 3 p.m., Main Stage

Paper Bird had a fun, somewhat whimsical sound. The three women in the band played prominent roles, and the band has pop tendencies to go with their folksy roots.

Ha Ha Tonka, 3 p.m., Backwoods Stage

When the Missouri boys in Ha Ha Tonka bring out the harmony vocals, like the did for an a capella traditional tune, they can make the world go silent. They were fantastic in that regard. But they also brought the rock, too — they opted to close their 75-minute set with three Tom Petty covers, because it was a festival gig and they can do what they want.

Devil Makes Three, 4:30 p.m., Main Stage

The Devil Makes Three

The Devil Makes Three

The Devil Makes Three is indeed a trio, and one with endless potential at that. They look like bad boys (and a bad girl) with intimidating tattoos, but they also sang of world peace at one point. It’s not going to surprise me if The Devil Makes Three gets really big really soon. At least big in the the alternative bluegrass world.

Railroad EarthWEB002

Tim Carbone of Railroad Earth

Railroad Earth, 7:45 p.m., Main Stage

I always forget how much I like Railroad Earth until I see them onstage. I don’t often listen to their recorded songs — it’s a little too jammy, and a little bit too similar from track to track for my tastes. But live, it breathes and moves. They picked and played and even brought in the winner of the festival’s mandolin picking contest for a jam during “Bird in the House.” That was a nice touch.

And that concluded my music watching at Harvest Festival.

I hope you had a great Harvest Fest. Come back soon — I’ll upload more photos as I process them. And visit us on Friday (Oct. 24) in print — I’ll write a complete recap of the festival in that format.

A review of the Friday activities at Yonder’s Harvest Fest

October 18th, 2014 at 2:46 pm

The Carolina Chocolate Drops performing on Oct. 17 at Yonder's Harvest Fest on Mulberry Mountain. All photos by KEVIN KINDER, NWA Media.

The Carolina Chocolate Drops performing on Oct. 17 at Yonder’s Harvest Fest on Mulberry Mountain. All photos by KEVIN KINDER, NWA Media.

I must change my outlook from yesterday.

The weather worsened, but only in being slightly cooler than perfection. There are now a few clouds in the sky, a major change from yesterday’s spotless day. The clouds kept the morning cool; it’s most certainly fall.

And we can feel that transition happening. A quick run around the campgrounds here at Yonder Mountain String Band’s Harvest Music Festival showed me the first fall colors are arriving. And the cool mornings and warm afternoons mark the turn of the season as well as the return of college football does.

Jake Jolliff of Yonder Mountain String Band

Jake Jolliff of Yonder Mountain String Band

Pardon me the segue here, but we’re watching the transition of Yonder Mountain String Band live and in person as well. Yonder, who has headlined this festival for four consecutive years, lost a member in the spring but gained two more with the departure of Jeff Austin and the inclusion of Allie Kral and Jake Jolliff. The Yonder Mountain String Band that I watched on the Main Stage of their festival on Friday (Oct. 17) at Mulberry Mountain is a newish, vibrant thing. Not fully new — they maintain much of the former sound and play many of the old songs.

But new in that Jolliff and Kral add new dimensions, as evidenced by the latter’s lead vocals during a cover of Linda Ronstadt’s “You’re No Good.” That’s just not a song the band could have done six months ago.

Yonder’s headlining set was one of dozens that took place during the Friday festivities of the festival, which continues through the early-morning hours of Sunday (Oct. 19) on the gorgeous festival grounds. And when I say early morning, I mean that — Andy Frasco closes the festival with a set that begins at 2:15 a.m. and runs until 3:15 a.m.

Andy Frasco

Andy Frasco

Speaking of Frasco, he was one of many acts that I watched on Friday. A recap of each follows:

Andy Frasco, 2 p.m., Main Stage

Andy Frasco threw a party. And I do emphasis party. During the course of his set, he crowd surfed to moonshine. He funneled three beers. As a soundtrack for this, he covered the Beastie Boys and a bunch of ’90s rap. You know, party music. That’s where the bulk of his original material falls too. He sings of smoking dope, rock ‘n’ roll and boasts of conquests from the party before.

He invited people to break down the barriers between the VIP area and the main stage, and people obliged. He also played a full 5 minutes past his published stop time, meaning the band that followed him, Elephant Revival, had to cut their set short. Those are the kind of things he can get away with during his festival-closing set, but not in the middle of the day.

Elephant Revival, 3:45 p.m. Main Stage

I only watched a few minutes of Elephant Revival‘s set — it took them an eternity to complete their sound check. It also took a long time to reconstruct the stage after the end of Frasco’s show, so I’m not sure they are entirely to blame.

I’ve watched the band several times before, and I know they can spin a set in any direction they want. But I was struck on Friday afternoon by how soft and dreary they were for the set. Of course, I’m not sure any set looks enthusiastic when it follows Frasco’s nonstop wildness. I’m curious what Elephant Revival will do during their Backwoods Stage set later this afternoon. I’d hope it’s a little more rowdy.

The Bottle Rockets, 4:30 p.m., Backwoods Stage

Brian Henneman of The Bottle Rockets

Brian Henneman of The Bottle Rockets

Brian Henneman, the lead singer of The Bottle Rockets, talked about how strange it was for the band to be playing rock ‘n’ roll in the woods. I have to agree with him on some levels — they were the most rock-forward group on the bill. With big guitar riffs, they played a batch of Dad rock for the country crowd. I enjoyed it.

Split Lip Rayfield, 5:30 p.m., Main Stage

Split Lip Rayfield

Split Lip Rayfield

The Split Lip Rayfield show turned into a Kansas and Kansas City reunion for the band from Lawrence, Kansas. They dropped more than a dozen songs that the band has crafted in the past 20 years, singalong numbers such as “River” and “Rig or Cross.” They also told bad jokes, and they worked the crowd into a frenzy with fast playing and silliness. Later in the set, a “Lets Go Royals” chant broke out, perhaps partially in response to mandolin player Wayne Gottstine’s Kansas City Royals shirt and the baseball team’s run through the playoffs. When’s the last time a team outside of the Razorbacks got cheered on in Arkansas?

The Carolina Chocolate Drops, 7:30 p.m., Main Stage

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The Carolina Chocolate Drops are perfectly charming, and they use that leverage to discuss situations we shouldn’t be proud of. The Drops perform many old world traditionals, which means some of their songs are slave tunes. The quartet of black musicians from North Carolina pledge to not let anyone forget that time and the damage done. Beneath any of those lessons is a band equipped with stellar musicians. And they covered the full range of American sounds — jazz, blues, folk, bluegrass and more. I was particularly impressed with lead singer Rhiannon Giddens. Her voice is a thing of beauty.

Yonder Mountain String Band, 9:45 p.m., Main Stage

I don’t know what to say about Yonder I didn’t say above — or won’t say again tomorrow morning after I see them live again tonight. They are one of many acts on my schedule today, which also includes sets by Ha Ha Tonka, The Steel Wheels and Elephant Revival (yes, again).

NWA’s first Metal Fest takes place Oct. 18

October 17th, 2014 at 3:27 pm

Savage Spawn

Savage Spawn

When a segment of the music-listening population runs away for a music festival, like many will for this weekend’s Yonder Mountain String Band’s Harvest Music Festival, there’s a void left.

A void those in the metal community are happy to fill.

Following the success of a metal show at George’s Majestic Lounge during the Wakarusa festival in June, the venue is again coordinating a big to-do featuring metal bands, this time during Harvest Fest. Pointless Promotions booking agent and owner Rubin Medina is in charge of rounding up the bands, just as we was during Wakarusa. The pairing works well for all involved, Medina says.

The venue wants to bring in an alternative, and Medina has a list of bands he’s worked with in the past.

“I want to put these bands in front of people, because they are pretty good,” he says.

For Saturday’s NWA Metal Fest at George’s, Medina has booked 13 local or regional bands.

Performing during the festival will be Antartichrist, Hellbeast, War Pigs, Chemical Discipline, Eye of the Witch, Serpentine, Savage Spawn, Izuna and more. Music will take place on the lounge and garden stages at George’s.

Yonder Mountain String Band — Traditional and new

October 17th, 2014 at 12:41 pm

Yonder Mountain String Band

Yonder Mountain String Band

This isn’t the same Yonder Mountain String Band you once knew.

And that’s never more obvious than in the lineup of the band itself. In April, the band announced a split with founding mandolin player and vocalist Jeff Austin.

The time since that amicable(?) split has been a busy one. The band added two new players, Allie Kral on fiddle and Jake Jolliff on mandolin. New music is in the works, and the band has resumed its nearly nonstop touring schedule.

That brings the group to this area for a series of shows at this year’s Yonder Mountain String Band’s Harvest Music Festival. They played a set last night (Oct. 16), and they’ll play another tonight and tomorrow night (Oct. 17-18).

I recently spoke with the band’s guitarist, Adam Aijala, about the energy the new members bring to the band and about moving forward. You can read my interview in today’s What’s Up! section, available in all five of the Northwest Arkansas Media group’s daily papers or online [Note: Subscriber content].

The band plays from 10 p.m.-12:30 a.m. today moving into Saturday and from 9:45 p.m.-12:30 a.m. Saturday into Sunday. Both sets are on the main stage.

Two-day tickets are currently $105 and are available through the festival’s ticketing site.

I’ll be down on the festival grounds through Sunday morning, so make sure you’re following along here and on Twitter.

A recap of Thursday activities at Yonder’s Harvest Fest

October 17th, 2014 at 11:34 am

Trampled by Turtles. All photos by KEVIN KINDER, NWA Media.

Trampled by Turtles. All photos by KEVIN KINDER, NWA Media.

Ben Kaufmann, bass player for Yonder Mountain String Band, might have jinxed us all. He mentioned the unspeakable — the weather at the Yonder Mountain String Band’s Harvest Music Festival. In previous years, it always seemed to rain, and I think he used the word “deluge” during a Thursday (Oct. 16) press conference.

“We’ve been swimming in mud and water for so many years,” Kaufmann said.

About this year, Kaufmann said “It is the definition of perfect.”

And I’m not sure how this year could have gotten off to a better start, at least from my perspective. Yonder’s Harvest Festival is in its fourth year; the festival operated for five years before the partnership with Yonder commenced.

This one included, I’ve been to eight of the festivals, missing only the inaugural year. I’m not sure it’s ever been this nice. We were promised a deep pool of talent, and we were promised a larger-than-ever crowd. We get no such guarantees on weather, but we’ll certainly take a present when we’re handed one.

The Oh Hellos

The Oh Hellos

I caught bits of many sets early in the day, such as Rose’s Pawn Shop and Samantha Fish, between press conferences and other work obligations. I was able to see a chunk of several shows later in the evenings, and bit on each follows:

The Oh Hellos, 7 p.m., Main Stage

Want to talk about nice weather? Well, The Oh Hellos make music that’s probably best described as “nice.” The Dallas-based band rarely performs together, and perhaps that’s because it is so hard to gather all 12 of the musicians who were on stage for their set last night. Like bands such as The Lumineers and The Head and the Heart, The Oh Hellos offer pleasing music of the loud-soft-now loud again variety. They didn’t play my favorite song of their, but I’ll give them a pass this time.

The Jayhawks, 8:30 p.m., Main Stage

Gary Louris, with his weird beard

Gary Louris, with his weird beard

I maintain an unofficial list of the top bands I’ve yet to see live — and there aren’t many left, because I’m pretty lucky in my current music-writing gig. The Jayhawks were, until last night, in second place on that list, topped only by Neil Young (with Crazy Horse, because I’ve watched him with Buffalo Springfield). It’s hard to live up to years of hype, but The Jayhawks are no ordinary band. Lead vocalist Gary Louris, in a move appropriate for a festival environment, came out in a ridiculous fake beard. They would spend the next 90 minutes offering up songs from their decade-plus-deep catalog. The band often times lacked a certain “oomph,” and tracks like “Angeline” were given with precision. But alternately, the band cranked it up for takes on “I’d Run Away” or pumped up the emotion with the surprisingly heartbreaking “Tampa to Tulsa.” The softer — or harder — moments made for the more interesting moments from their set.

Trampled by Turtles, 10:30 p.m., Main Stage

Early in the day while at my campsite, I heard Trampled by Turtles perform a soundcheck. They got a demand for an encore from the assembled few who gathered for the improptu set. It would be that kind of night for them. They came out gloriously uptempo, and they rarely relented during Thursday’s proceedings. They played smartly, and jammed without sounding too jammy. That’s a feat, and it takes a great band to pull it off. They stuck to their guns, but when they ventured away, that was beautiful, too, as they did with the cover of Arcade Fire’s “Rebellion (Lies).”

There’s much on the agenda for today, of course. I’ve got the Carolina Chocolate Drops, Yonder Mountain String Band and Dirtfoot, among others, on my radar today? What will you see?

Gary Louris, with his weird beard

Gary Louris, with his weird beard

The weekend in live music, with RJ Mischo and more

October 17th, 2014 at 5:03 am

RJ Mischo

RJ Mischo

I’ve spent the better part of the last week trying not to jinx the weather. You see, this is the time of year when we get a rainy spell or two — it’s Yonder Mountain String Band’s Harvest Music Festival time, and that event has a history with weather, up to and including getting walloped by the remnants of a hurricane.

So I dare not talk about it, even as the rainy weekend that always seems to fall at this time of year may have just past. Have you seen what’s coming in the next three days? I mean, it looks, well … I can’t say it out loud, but take a look.

Get out this weekend, will you? We’ll continue our festival coverage throughout the weekend, so how about things for those staying home?

Acclaimed local bluesman RJ Mischo returns with a new album he’ll celebrate tonight (Oct. 17) at George’s Majestic Lounge. The harmonica player’s 12th release, “Everything I Need,” includes nine originals and three covers. “Everything I Need” was recorded in Minneapolis and was released on Oct. 1. Joining him for the evening will be his Red Hot Blues Band, a group assembled fresh for each show, this time featuring Zack Bramhall. Admission to the 6-8 p.m. show is $5.

This is also craft fair weekend, and that brings thousands to the area. Some of the events even have music.

Here’s one of those. At just 10 years old, Tennessee native Emi Sunshine already has credentials that would make many lifelong musicians jealous. She’s performed on the “Today” show, and she just took the stage at the Grand Ole Opry in August. Emi and her family band are booked for shows today and Saturday (Oct. 18) at the Ozark Regional Craft Fair at the Washington County Fairgrounds in Fayetteville. She performs at 2 p.m. today and at noon Saturday. Other acts scheduled to perform during the craft fair include the Southern Sirens and the Cow Patty Creek band. Admission and parking are free.

Another, and different, option takes place in Fort Smith.

One-time Fort Smith resident Jonathan Karrant returns home for a show on Saturday night at the Blue Lion. For this appearance, the jazz vocalist will be backed by the Don Bailey Quartet for an evening called “Celebrating America’s Crooners.” The group’s repertoire for the evening will include works by Frank Sinatra, Bobby Darin and Michael Buble. Tickets to the 8 p.m. concert are $30 and are available through brownpapertickets.com.

Elsewhere, the Sweet Water Gypsies offer a set up on Sunday (Oct. 19) at Chelsea’s Corner Cafe, and Brennan Leigh and Noel McKay perform tonight at Fayetteville Underground.

What’s on your calendar?

A quick update from Yonder’s Harvest Festival

October 16th, 2014 at 2:03 pm

Yonder Mountain String Band’s Harvest Festival is underway. Or will be soon, depending much on which bands you want to see.

The Main Stage opens in about three minutes with Eureka Springs’ Mountain Sprout, a blend of high energy bluegrass and dirty jokes.

As for everything else so far, it’s been a fantastic morning. It started on the chilly side this morning — something like 42 degrees. It’s only gotten warmer, and if there are clouds in the sky, there aren’t many. In other words, it’s a fantastic start to the day.

I’m off to see Mountain Sprout, The Jayhawks, Trampled by Turtles (who sounded fantastic during their sound check, by the way) and Yonder Mountain String Band. And no doubt some others along the way.

Come back early tomorrow, when, Internet connection permitting, I’ll post some photos and a review of the Thursday shows.

The 10 bands you must see at this year’s Harvest Festival

October 15th, 2014 at 9:47 am

Music festivals feature a never-ending assortment of choices. If you haven’t thought about what to pack, what to wear and what to eat and drink while at Yonder Mountain String Band’s Harvest Music Festival, well, you haven’t spent as much time thinking about the festival as I have.

And that’s before ever getting into the music, a dizzying array of tunes that rarely stop. What’s worse, the shows sometimes conflict because there are four stages, often operating simultaneously. Music technically starts at 7 p.m. today (Oct. 15) for early arrivals, and it continues through the early morning hours of Sunday (Oct. 19).

I can only make suggestions on what to pack and wear, and I can likewise only make suggestions about what to see.

But I can tell you my Top 10 most anticipated sets of the festival. Look for me at all of these. I’ll be the one dancing like a madman.

10) The Oh Hellos — 7 p.m. Oct. 16 at the Main Stage

This folk-pop group from Texas rarely plays together. You’ll like them if you like The Lumineers or charming vocal interplay.

The Oh Hellos perform “Hello My Old Heart”:

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9) The Bottle Rockets — 4:30 p.m. Oct. 17 at the Backwoods Stage

One of the pioneers of the alternative country movement, The Bottle Rockets play music with big flourishes.

The Bottle Rockets perform “Radar Gun”:

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8) Everyone Orchestra — 12:30 a.m. Oct. 19 at the Harvest Tent

The Everyone Orchestra includes just about everyone on the festival grounds. It’s unpredictable, but often charming.

A sample from the Everyone Orchestra‘s performance at last year’s Harvest Fest:

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7) Carolina Chocolate Drops — 7:30 p.m. Oct. 17 at the Main Stage

This band’s pure take on traditional music is a throwback, yet it also breaks new ground at the same time.

Carolina Chocolate Drops perform “Leaving Eden”:

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6) The Devil Makes Three — 4:30 p.m. Oct. 18 at the Main Stage

One of those bands that just keeps growing in popularity. The Devil Makes Three will be much bigger than they are now, and soon. Trust me on this one.

The Devil Makes Three performs “Do Wrong Right”:

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5) The Steel Wheels — 1:45 p.m. Oct. 18 on the Main Stage

The Steel Wheels have previously visited the area for sets at The Fayetteville Roots Festival, and I’m glad to have them back. When they launch in to vocal harmonies, it’s breathtaking.

The Steel Wheels perform “Valley”:

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4) Yonder Mountain String Band — several to choose from, but I’m going for 10 p.m. Oct. 17 on the Main Stage

The festival’s namesake offers nearly eight hours of music during the event, split over three days. I’m curious to hear the Colorado group play with their new lineup, which debuted this summer.

Yonder Mountain String Band covers Dolly Parton’s “Jolene”:

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3) Andy Frasco — 2:15 a.m. Oct. 19 at the Harvest Tent

Andy Frasco throws a party. If you think you can’t stay up until 3 in the morning, Frasco will prove you wrong.

Andy Frasco covers the Talking Heads’ “Road to Nowhere” at last year’s Harvest Festival.

Notice – this one has some rock star language:

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2) Trampled by Turtles — 10:30 p.m. on the Main Stage

Trampled by Turtles blend the best of old-grass and new-grass. These guys can play any speed and any style they choose.

Trampled by Turtles perform “Repetition”:

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1) The Jayhawks — 8:30 p.m. on the Main Stage

I’ve loved The Jayhawks for a decade, but a hiatus and a departure of a member stopped them from touring before I could see them live. I was heartbroken when they canceled their scheduled 2012 appearance at Harvest Fest, and I expect to be overjoyed on Thursday when I finally see them.

The Jayhawks perform “The Man Who Loved Life”:

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What you need to know about Harvest Fest 2014

October 14th, 2014 at 12:19 pm

The Carolina Chocolate Drops, one of about 50 playing this weekend at Yonder Mountain String Band's Harvest Music Festival.

The Carolina Chocolate Drops, one of about 50 bands playing this weekend at Yonder Mountain String Band’s Harvest Music Festival.

As we near the beginning of Yonder Mountain String Band’s Harvest Music Festival, I really don’t know what else to say.

If you like Americana and bluegrass music, you should go. If you like camping, you should go. And if you like scenic Arkansas, well, you should go.

14x8_5 - Inside - Landscape - Double ParallelHarvest Festival’s combination of these elements makes the event, as festival director Bret Mosiman describes it, the perfect weekend to get your camping gear out one last time. I spent some time talking to Mosiman about the festival, and I published a story [Note: Subscriber content] in Friday’s What’s Up! section that previews the event, which begins Thursday (Oct. 16) on Mulberry Mountain north of Ozark on Arkansas 23. The event concludes in the early morning hours of Sunday (Oct. 19).

Here are a few tips for those of you heading down to the mountain:

Ben Kaufman of headlining act Yonder Mountain String Band

Ben Kaufmann of headlining act Yonder Mountain String Band

• The weather at Harvest Festival is notoriously fickle. You might have even viewed a long-term forecast that shows perfectly clear skies. But it rained a tremendous amount in the region in the days leading up to the festival, so I’d pack some rain boots just in case. The worst that happens is you have to leave them in your vehicle all weekend.

• Ditto on a light rain jacket. Pack one just in case.

• Festival organizers have put together a pretty handy travel guide, with packing tips. It summarizes it as well as I can: yonderharvestfestival.com/travel-guide/

• The travel guide mentions this as well, but I’ll emphasis it again — drink a tremendous amount of water.

• Pack a camping headlamp. They are invaluable for late-night trips to the restroom.

• Music is the focus, but there are plenty of other things to do in the immediate area. There’s a nearby waterfall hike everyone should make. The trail head is near the main stage.

P.S. Come back tomorrow, when I’ll preview the festival’s Top 10 must-see acts.

Soon in tunes: Chris Robinson Brotherhood, Oct. 16 at George’s

October 13th, 2014 at 10:49 am

Chris Robinson Brotherhood photo by Matthew Mendenhall

Chris Robinson Brotherhood photo by Matthew Mendenhall

Better known for his work with The Black Crowes, Chris Robinson has taken his band-leading duties to his own project, the Chris Robinson Brotherhood. It’s that project that will visit George’s Majestic Lounge on Thursday (Oct. 16) for a show in support of the band’s latest release, “The Phosphorescent Harvest.” Admission to the 9 p.m. show is $18.